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"The official saddle hunting backpack thread"

Maverick1

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
Messages
266
All - earlier this year I had a chance to try out the Pop-Up 38. Below are some of my thoughts around this pack. (To cut to the chase: I purchased a Pop-Up 38 and ended up unloading it after a dozen or so hunts using my saddle setup this year. Read more if you'd like some additional information......)

Pro's:
+ Handles light to medium loads well, better than I expected.
+ The load lifters were functional; kind of hard to find that on a pack that compresses down as small as it does, and then can expand to a larger frame size.
+ Adjusting the yoke of the frame was easy and made a noticeable difference in overall comfort.
+ It is nice to have the ability to expand or shrink the overall height of the frame with the pop-up feature
+ Plenty of storage space
+ The beaver-tail section was nice. Mystery Ranch calls this the large outer stuff pocket. And it does a nice job of holding large stuff, outside of the main bag. My predator platform fit perfectly inside. (For anyone wondering, the Mission platform did NOT fit inside this section.)
+ The handle was nice. (Weird, I never thought it would be nice to have an handle on a backpack, but it was nice loading it into and out of the truck, canoe, treestand, basement, etc.)
+ The main bag and frame were expandable to be able to stuff a load between the frame and bag. Mystery Ranch calls this the overload shelf. (I tried this feature out at home with both a treestand and bulky clothing, but never used it in the field. This could also be used for packing meat.)
+ There were a couple of extra loops on the side of the main bag at the top and bottom (near the compression straps) where I was able to attach a couple of repair buckles and attach some webbing straps to lash down my heavier outer layers. (This minimized the need for additional pals webbing - and met my needs.)

Con's:
- The lid. By itself, the lid functions adequately: with the main bag relatively empty and the frame in the "down" position, it functions. However, with the frame extended in the "up" position, the main bag full of gear, and the top lid fill with gear, it is very cumbersome to open the top lid. Said differently, it was a PITA. This is ONE of the two primary reasons I unloaded this pack, the second being...

- The snow collar. (Mystery Ranch calls this the "top loading shroud".) Good concept, poor design/execution. - When the main bag is at "less-than-full" capacity, the snow collar folds down on itself, which is a good design concept. This becomes kind of an annoying hassle, though: in order to get at what is inside the main bag, you have to dig through the snow collar, which limits what you can see inside the bag. This was minor, really, but pretty annoying. I like to see what is inside the bag!
- When the main bag is at "full" capacity, and the snow collar fully extended, there really is no room for the lid. (Give it a try....stuff the bag full of blankets, extend the snow collar all the way up, and extend the frame all the way up....what happens to the lid? The snow collar is able to extend taller than the lid is able to go. Without a removable lid, this is a poor design. Either make the snow collar shorter, or the lid taller!) (This is a bit hard to describe: Jump to the 2:00 mark of this video on the Mystery Ranch website and pause the video: the top loading shroud is fully extended, take a look and see - where is the lid of the backpack? ). See next comments below....
- After some trial, I thought about removing the snow collar. - just cutting it off. However, Mystery Ranch installed the side-access zipper the full length of the main bag AND the snow collar. And I didn't want to monkey around with cutting around the snow collar and having a zipper flopping around.

- The "water bottle" pockets on the side of the pack were useless - to me. I attempted to use them to hold gatorade bottles. (I mention gatorade bottles as a size reference).. If the pack was upright, the gatorade bottles sat in the side pockets just fine. The minute I tipped the bag backwards or laid it down (to undo my climbing sticks or the platform strapped to the outside) the gatorade bottles would flop out. And, if I wanted to remove a gatorade bottle to get a drink, I had to loosen the side compression straps, which caused my climbing sticks on both side of the pack to come loose and need to be repacked. Annoying.

- In order to access the gear inside the beavertail, you have to unbuckle or loosen the side compression straps. (This is not unique to the Pop-Up 38; many backpacks share this design feature. Just something to note and consider for those that may not realize it. I found it a bit of a hassle: in order to take my predator platform out of the beaver tail - or to access any gear being stored inside the beavertail - I had to loosen the side compression straps, which caused my climbing sticks to flop away from the pack, the above-mentioned gatorade bottles to flop out of the side pockets, and the main bag to flop away from the frame.)

- The waistbelt does not lay flat; it is constantly sticking "out". What's the big deal? Up in the treestand, the pack seem to stick out from the tree more than I'd prefer. It kind of teeter-tottered around on the tree. Granted, I didn't think it would sit flat like a children's backpack would, but the profile was larger than I cared for, even in the most compact version I could make it. This WAS a nice feature for setting the backpack on the ground - since it stood up by itself - but the pack did not have a very flat profile in the tree, in the canoe, or in the back of the truck with all my other gear (Minor).

Quite a few negatives for me on the pros and cons list above. As another angle (I really wanted this frame and system to work out!) I purchased a mule bag and day pack lid, but this didn't work out, either. Why?
- The mule bag attached to the pop-up frame perfectly, although it did not have the pals webbing on the bottom of the mule bag to keep the bottom of the mule bag in place.
- The daypack lid was too wide to attach to the narrow top section of the pop-up frame. (Sure, I was physically able to attach the daypack lid to the frame, but it was kind of clumsy and there was a lot of "blousing").
- The cost: $350 for the pop-up 38 + $125 for the mule bag + $90 for the daypack lid = $565; that's well into the cost of other high-end packs and frames.
 

sojourner

Well-Known Member
SH Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2014
Messages
1,405
All - earlier this year I had a chance to try out the Pop-Up 38. Below are some of my thoughts around this pack. (To cut to the chase: I purchased a Pop-Up 38 and ended up unloading it after a dozen or so hunts using my saddle setup this year. Read more if you'd like some additional information......)

Pro's:
+ Handles light to medium loads well, better than I expected.
+ The load lifters were functional; kind of hard to find that on a pack that compresses down as small as it does, and then can expand to a larger frame size.
+ Adjusting the yoke of the frame was easy and made a noticeable difference in overall comfort.
+ It is nice to have the ability to expand or shrink the overall height of the frame with the pop-up feature
+ Plenty of storage space
+ The beaver-tail section was nice. Mystery Ranch calls this the large outer stuff pocket. And it does a nice job of holding large stuff, outside of the main bag. My predator platform fit perfectly inside. (For anyone wondering, the Mission platform did NOT fit inside this section.)
+ The handle was nice. (Weird, I never thought it would be nice to have an handle on a backpack, but it was nice loading it into and out of the truck, canoe, treestand, basement, etc.)
+ The main bag and frame were expandable to be able to stuff a load between the frame and bag. Mystery Ranch calls this the overload shelf. (I tried this feature out at home with both a treestand and bulky clothing, but never used it in the field. This could also be used for packing meat.)
+ There were a couple of extra loops on the side of the main bag at the top and bottom (near the compression straps) where I was able to attach a couple of repair buckles and attach some webbing straps to lash down my heavier outer layers. (This minimized the need for additional pals webbing - and met my needs.)

Con's:
- The lid. By itself, the lid functions adequately: with the main bag relatively empty and the frame in the "down" position, it functions. However, with the frame extended in the "up" position, the main bag full of gear, and the top lid fill with gear, it is very cumbersome to open the top lid. Said differently, it was a PITA. This is ONE of the two primary reasons I unloaded this pack, the second being...

- The snow collar. (Mystery Ranch calls this the "top loading shroud".) Good concept, poor design/execution. - When the main bag is at "less-than-full" capacity, the snow collar folds down on itself, which is a good design concept. This becomes kind of an annoying hassle, though: in order to get at what is inside the main bag, you have to dig through the snow collar, which limits what you can see inside the bag. This was minor, really, but pretty annoying. I like to see what is inside the bag!
- When the main bag is at "full" capacity, and the snow collar fully extended, there really is no room for the lid. (Give it a try....stuff the bag full of blankets, extend the snow collar all the way up, and extend the frame all the way up....what happens to the lid? The snow collar is able to extend taller than the lid is able to go. Without a removable lid, this is a poor design. Either make the snow collar shorter, or the lid taller!) (This is a bit hard to describe: Jump to the 2:00 mark of this video on the Mystery Ranch website and pause the video: the top loading shroud is fully extended, take a look and see - where is the lid of the backpack? ). See next comments below....
- After some trial, I thought about removing the snow collar. - just cutting it off. However, Mystery Ranch installed the side-access zipper the full length of the main bag AND the snow collar. And I didn't want to monkey around with cutting around the snow collar and having a zipper flopping around.

- The "water bottle" pockets on the side of the pack were useless - to me. I attempted to use them to hold gatorade bottles. (I mention gatorade bottles as a size reference).. If the pack was upright, the gatorade bottles sat in the side pockets just fine. The minute I tipped the bag backwards or laid it down (to undo my climbing sticks or the platform strapped to the outside) the gatorade bottles would flop out. And, if I wanted to remove a gatorade bottle to get a drink, I had to loosen the side compression straps, which caused my climbing sticks on both side of the pack to come loose and need to be repacked. Annoying.

- In order to access the gear inside the beavertail, you have to unbuckle or loosen the side compression straps. (This is not unique to the Pop-Up 38; many backpacks share this design feature. Just something to note and consider for those that may not realize it. I found it a bit of a hassle: in order to take my predator platform out of the beaver tail - or to access any gear being stored inside the beavertail - I had to loosen the side compression straps, which caused my climbing sticks to flop away from the pack, the above-mentioned gatorade bottles to flop out of the side pockets, and the main bag to flop away from the frame.)

- The waistbelt does not lay flat; it is constantly sticking "out". What's the big deal? Up in the treestand, the pack seem to stick out from the tree more than I'd prefer. It kind of teeter-tottered around on the tree. Granted, I didn't think it would sit flat like a children's backpack would, but the profile was larger than I cared for, even in the most compact version I could make it. This WAS a nice feature for setting the backpack on the ground - since it stood up by itself - but the pack did not have a very flat profile in the tree, in the canoe, or in the back of the truck with all my other gear (Minor).

Quite a few negatives for me on the pros and cons list above. As another angle (I really wanted this frame and system to work out!) I purchased a mule bag and day pack lid, but this didn't work out, either. Why?
- The mule bag attached to the pop-up frame perfectly, although it did not have the pals webbing on the bottom of the mule bag to keep the bottom of the mule bag in place.
- The daypack lid was too wide to attach to the narrow top section of the pop-up frame. (Sure, I was physically able to attach the daypack lid to the frame, but it was kind of clumsy and there was a lot of "blousing").
- The cost: $350 for the pop-up 38 + $125 for the mule bag + $90 for the daypack lid = $565; that's well into the cost of other high-end packs and frames.
Very similar to you. I did order the mule bag. They had to send me connectors so the bottom would connect. I did not order a lid for it. I am looking to see if the mule bag will work for minimal gear for day hunts (putting clothes, platform and sticks in the meat shelf). For me the jury is still out on if the mule bag will work for me. One thing is certain, the 38 bag has deficiencies you noted.

I do like the frame and handle on stone glacier xcurve pack frames much better. In fact, I would use the sg xcurve exclusively if it weren’t for the 26” stays catching brush in eastern swamps and thickets.

Great write up.
 

rutjr

Well-Known Member
SH Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2018
Messages
1,700
Location
Cumberland, RI
Hahaha looks like my Garage work table, I have a Badlands superday pack, eberlestock x2, several tenzing packs, Slumberjack pack, every branch of military surplus ruck sack, insights bow pack, voodoo tactical pack, and the list goes on. But I stiiiill havent found...........what im looking for!
Me too! I have well over a dozen packs. Still struggling.
 

FletchDeep

Active Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2018
Messages
147
Need some feedback for my next project. I've already made a bag for my Mystery Range Guide Light frame that I really like, but since switching to bolts I really don't need a full fledged frame pack. I don't like how the stiff waist belt hangs off the tree and just gets in the way. My platform is a podium and I find it packs better with vertical straps than horizontal compression straps. This should give me room to still carry camera gear and my platform. I will probably start without the internal frame stays and see if it sucks to carry without load lifters, but I want the option to remove it and go smaller when I hunt preset stands and don't have to carry much.hunting pack 2.jpghunting pack.jpg
 

rhagenw

Well-Known Member
SH Member
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
808
Of all these packs which would be better suited for primary hauling whitetail or 2 dayish Elk backcountry excursion? MR pop up?
 

arm breaker

Well-Known Member
SH Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2019
Messages
528
Location
Arkansas
I just picked up the Fast Pack Lightspeed from Triple Aught Design. Since I’ve started using the Mission I’ve had a hard time packing it as well. This one fits the bill perfectly. It would probably struggle to hold a ton of sticks but with the mission and my one stick and/SRT gear it’s going to be perfect for my needs.
 

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slonstdy

Well-Known Member
SH Member
Joined
Oct 10, 2018
Messages
847
Sweet Jesus, I can't believe I just went thru 30 pages of backpack banter. You guys really take them seriously, lol.

I've been using the same Cabela's no frills pack for over 14 years and it's served my needs up till this point. I carry the bare essentials in it and strap my single climbing stick on the outside. It doesn't hold weight well and my shoulders will ache on long hikes.

For next season I'm planning to do some out of state hunts in unknown terrain and distance and will pack out the meat instead of walking back to the truck for my game cart. I'm looking for a few pack recommendations but not too sure what I need other than a frame to support the weight of the meat. One 12" climbing stick is all that will be lashed to it on the walk in. Would like a pack on the smaller side that won't be a hindrance in the tree. MR pop up, Eberlestock and Full curl about right? I looked at Kuiu untilI saw $500!!

Not looking for extra bags or accessories either, just want a small frame pack that can handle the weight of a whitetail and a few necessity items. Is this unicorn out there?
 

Bowhunter33

Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2020
Messages
52
Sweet Jesus, I can't believe I just went thru 30 pages of backpack banter. You guys really take them seriously, lol.

I've been using the same Cabela's no frills pack for over 14 years and it's served my needs up till this point. I carry the bare essentials in it and strap my single climbing stick on the outside. It doesn't hold weight well and my shoulders will ache on long hikes.

For next season I'm planning to do some out of state hunts in unknown terrain and distance and will pack out the meat instead of walking back to the truck for my game cart. I'm looking for a few pack recommendations but not too sure what I need other than a frame to support the weight of the meat. One 12" climbing stick is all that will be lashed to it on the walk in. Would like a pack on the smaller side that won't be a hindrance in the tree. MR pop up, Eberlestock and Full curl about right? I looked at Kuiu untilI saw $500!!

Not looking for extra bags or accessories either, just want a small frame pack that can handle the weight of a whitetail and a few necessity items. Is this unicorn out there?
Mystery ranch pop up 18 is what I'm using

Sent from my SM-A515U using Tapatalk
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2019
Messages
69
I have used a multitude of packs. Mostly different pack bags on one of two Kifaru frames. When I’m walking into an area for several miles, I always take a framed pack to carry all my gear and pack out a complete deer.

in the pic, this is how I ended the season and I have finally found what I was looking for. Kifaru tactical frame with 22 mag pack bag. The bag has my podium platform, bino harness, kill kit, saddle and gear, calls, etc... and it’s about a 1/3 full. Plenty of room for warm layers and food. Nalgene bottles in the side pockets, and three mod. Hawk helium sticks strapped on the back.

I’ve carried all this in the Kifaru DT2 behind it. With enough room left for a toddler. It worked well but is simply too much bag unless I’m backpacking for elk. But if you find yourself just wanting to dump it all in a bag, cinch everything tight, and roll, this is a top candidate. It sure saves on getting everything wrapped up after the climb down.


I also use a Kifaru DT3 bag on one of those frames. It works good too.

When I’m hunting where I’m not packing meat, I use a Walmart camo’ed bag. It has compression straps to hold the sticks and platforms on the outside.

I never wear my saddle on long hikes. And, I don’t fret weight of an empty pack. While all my Kifaru frames and bags come in a touch over 6 pounds, they carry the weight so well over other options, I can’t justify saving a pound for a pack that would require 6-7 more miles to get a framed pack to carry meat. Or, the sore shoulders from 20 pounds of gear in a Wally World special.

if you need a framed pack option, don’t over look the pink elephant in the room of hunting backpacks. Kifaru is 100% sourced and made in the USA. And lifetime warranty everything they make.
 
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MathewsHoyt

Well-Known Member
SH Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2019
Messages
270
I have recently purchased the sitka tool belt. I want to have a minimalist setup and dove in and purchased it. I have owned the Mystery Ranch popup 28 and various other packs and then carried too many items in the woods. All that stuff carries scent. So if you want to reduce your scent carry fewer items.
I like my Fanatic pack and it is dead quiet, just too limp with no waist belt. The tool belt is going to be an interesting adventure.
 

sokraski

Member
SH Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2020
Messages
83
Location
Central Illinois
Sweet Jesus, I can't believe I just went thru 30 pages of backpack banter. You guys really take them seriously, lol.

I've been using the same Cabela's no frills pack for over 14 years and it's served my needs up till this point. I carry the bare essentials in it and strap my single climbing stick on the outside. It doesn't hold weight well and my shoulders will ache on long hikes.

For next season I'm planning to do some out of state hunts in unknown terrain and distance and will pack out the meat instead of walking back to the truck for my game cart. I'm looking for a few pack recommendations but not too sure what I need other than a frame to support the weight of the meat. One 12" climbing stick is all that will be lashed to it on the walk in. Would like a pack on the smaller side that won't be a hindrance in the tree. MR pop up, Eberlestock and Full curl about right? I looked at Kuiu untilI saw $500!!

Not looking for extra bags or accessories either, just want a small frame pack that can handle the weight of a whitetail and a few necessity items. Is this unicorn out there?
About a month and a half ago I ordered a HH Full Curl Lite, Badlands Vario Frame, Seek Outside Revolution Frame, and a Stone Glacier Xcurve Frame looking for something similar to what you are looking for. I used the full 30 days return period to test and see which would work best for me. Comfort (I have bad back/neck and needed the belt to do a majority of the lifting) and versatility (being able to easily carry as much or as little as I wanted to) were my number 1 & 2 priorities. Long story short the Stone Glacier Xcurve won.

I think any of these setups would work for you. Throw whatever you have on the load shelf and cinch down some straps. They all can carry more weight than you will be able to handle and if you are not packing/hauling a lot of stuff they are pretty thin and light. If comfort is of any concern, I highly recommend trying as many different ones as you can because they all fit/feel a little different and your body will tell you which one fits best. I used 40 and 80 lbs for testing.
 

Zero One Actual

Well-Known Member
SH Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2020
Messages
617
Location
South Eastern United States
I am running the Alps Outdoors Willow Creek. It is the best truck to tree pack I have found. It has hydration if you need it and can fit your saddle (Cruzr XC) in the main compartment while you hike in also or carry additional items in the main compartment like one rain jacket or fleece or something. The smaller outter pocket can carry your smaller items you may need.

It is shown with the mission platform and four 20 inch Shikars. The Shikars pack even nicer when in the proper storage positions but I’m lazy and left them ready to go.

It’s the best small pack setup I have found yet for guys running sticks and a platform and not needing a full size pack. Think of this one as the pack you use when you aren’t going hunting if anyone asks.




 

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Onemanwolphpack

New Member
SH Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2020
Messages
39
I'm not sure if this has been mentioned here yet, but I picked up a GamePlan Gear CrossOver Pack and this thing is sweet. Platform and sticks hold nice and tight with plenty of pockets for gear. Also has straps to strap to the tree and doubles as a knee pad. Can also strap your bow into it when you climb instead of a pull up rope.
Screenshot_20210419-181455_Gallery.jpgScreenshot_20210419-181555_Gallery.jpgScreenshot_20210419-181601_Gallery.jpg
 
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